Khushi Vaid, New Delhi
“In the middle of youth, this summer was ours”
Youth is filled with rowdy friendships and passionate love, which helps our long-life shine ahead. Nothing lasts forever however the verity that we were once piece of these forever’s. You don’t always end up with your first love, you change, you grow, you forget and move on, albeit the people you meet will always be part of who you are now. The unfeigned realness of the main characters, including the supporting cast, makes it much easier to put ourselves in their shoes, to perceive the essence of “youth” and “growth.”
Starring gorgeous Kim Tae-ri as Naa Hee-do and personable Nam Joo-hyuk as Baek Yi-jin, with second main lead includes stunning singer and actress Kim Ji-yeon as Ko Yu-rim, who is also a member of South Korean-Chinese girl group WJSN, popularly goes by her stage name ‘Bona’, alongside charming Choi Hyun-wook as Moon Ji-woong and beautiful Lee Joo-myoung as Ji Seung-wan, the 2022 South Korean Television Series “Twenty-Five Twenty-One” also known as “Seumuldaseot Seumulhana” (Korean: 스물다섯 스물하나) is one of its kind, a masterful poignant portrait of youth, this is one of the few K-Dramas which has definite power to allure person of every generation. The direction of this ‘Coming Age Drama’ is done by Jung Ji-hyun, the award-winning director who is also responsible for giving us such heartwarming dramas like ‘You are my spring’ and ‘The King: Eternal Monarch’ to name a few, with the script written by writer Kwon Do-eun. It premiered on tvN on February 12, 2022, and was on-air till April 03, 2022, and aired every Saturday-Sunday at 21:10 (KST) for 16 episodes. It is also available for streaming on Netflix.
Each episode begins with a glimpse into the life of Na Hee-do’s (Kim Tae-Ri) daughter, Kim Min-chae (Choi Myung-bin) who is a high school student and a ballet dancer. Min-Chae avoids her mother’s disappointment after pulling out of a dancing competition, she flees away to her grandmother’s (Seo Jae-hee) house and comes across her mother’s diary from 1998, which chronicles the commencement of the main storyline.
A teen fencer Na Hee-do pursues high ambitions and meets a determined young man Baek Yi-Jin who strives to repair his life back in a time when IMF Crisis in 1998 almost threatened their dreams. Na Hee-do is a member of her school fencing team at Seo jung Girls High School, due to the IMF crisis, her team is forced to get disbanded. Hee-do is persistent in continuing her fencing and gets herself transferred to Tae Yang High School where her idol Go Yu-rim also studies and is already a fencing champion. Gradually she befriends Moon Ji-Woong who is a member of his school musical band, and is appreciated for his good looks and melodic voice; alongside Ji Seung-wan who is a very intelligent class topper plus student representative and also secretly runs a rogue radio show as DJ Wan-seung, both childhood best friends. Simultaneously we see Baek Yi-jin with a rough start, already struggling enough due to the crisis which separated his family, albeit he promises to bring his family back together, as the elder son, he performs various part-time jobs to save up. Na Hee-do and Baek Yi-jin meet for the first time when they were 18 and 22 and eventually become boon companions.
Na Hee-do gives her best in the first Face-off. Concurrently, more of Baek Yi-jin’s situation comes to light, how he’s been suffering alone and still trying to give his all, she takes a step forward to cherish him and takes him to her old school where they enjoy each other’s company. Hee-do’s recklessness, purity and determination remind him of his teenage glee days when he was free, fierce and full of zeal. We foresee a glimpse of their deep budding relationship of friendship and gradually love from this picture.
Go Yu-rim’s substandard living compels her to perform her best in Fencing as she solely depends on it. Finally, after rigorous training, Na Hee-do makes it to the National Team. With the leap of 3 months, we get to see a new version of Baek Yi-Jin, who looks a little mentally stronger and prepared for his future endeavours. One fine day finally Baek Yi-jin finds his way back towards Hee-do amid the IMF protest crowd.
Hee-do wins her 1st Gold Medal but a frustrating media narrative dampens this monumental moment of hers, this breaks Hee-do’s heart but not her surety. Baek Yi-jin chases down the only person who would be able to set things right for Hee-do. Such few more instances between them, where they show utmost sensitivity and affection towards each other give air to a new emotion of “Love”; meanwhile Yu-Rim’s perspective on Hee-do shifts so does her behaviour and their relationship. Yi-Jin under the guise of work takes Hee-do and Yu-Rim on a weekend getaway with Seung-wan and Ji-woong. This squad of “25-21”, reminds us of Reply 1988 squad, too warm and beautiful, the understanding, friendship and bond these five leads share in the drama is beyond words.
Surprisingly, this is amongst the very few of the K-Dramas which have openly talked about School Corporal Punishment and how still it’s been practised by many teachers under the name of autonomous school policy, during this segment we see Seung-wan’s character as the most courageous and bold one.
A new millennium approaches, creating more space for love and affection between Yi-Jin and Hee-Do. Albeit this blooming love Yi-Jin worries about his professional role affecting his personal feelings, but he’s ready to risk it all for Hee-Do as she is his support system, he finds hope within her for himself, and they heal each other by being content together.
It gets suspenseful when Min-chae is not able to find her mother’s next diary, which leaves the story dated back to 2009. The way Yi-Jin and Hee-Do look at each other shows their love is not over yet, the silence they shared speaks volumes, the story takes a twist when Yi-Jin congratulates Hee-do. Again with the relapse over time, Yu-Rim takes a big step to resolve her family’s difficult financial situations. Both Hee-Do and Yu-Rim reunite in the finals of the 2001 International Tournament.
Baek Yi-jin and Na Hee-do’s turnover when they were aged 25 and 21, presents more significance to the series title. Hope and Support were the pillars which changed their Rainbow into Love, these things that helped them get to where they’re now. There comes a package in a brown envelope for Hee-Do (Kim So-hyun) in the future. Hee-Do thanks Yi-Jin for standing by her side as she grew up alone. Yi-Jin, in reply, thanks her for supporting him through the tough times. Their 25-21 belonged to each other!
What Makes the drama 25-21 Special
25-21 teaches us about ‘Adulting’ and ‘Growth’, how precious youth is- it’s precious because it’ll only be a phase, it’ll be the only time where passion and friendship are the only things that matter, that’s why you have to treasure it. As we age, the more we realize how hard it is to do the things we used to do and how to manage our priorities.
There are brief moments in our lives that will be carved in our hearts and we will cherish them forever. Don’t be sad it ended, be happy because it happened. Time changes, people change, relationships change, the only thing permanent in this world is impermanence itself and this is the bittersweet reality of life.
This drama indeed was a masterpiece, life isn’t always about pleasant endings and breakups don’t always mean that the love has ended. It still prevails however who knows in some other form! Na Hee-do and Baek Yi-jin will always be special to each other and us.
What do you think about this K-drama? Tell us in the comments.
17 Comments Add yours
I hope you all would enjoy this article and this would intrigue you to watch this drama!❤️
This drama actually teach us a lot of things which we suffered in our life
So beautifully explained by kyle 💞
Loved the way you explain this drama’s story which we can relate it with our day to day life
What a beautiful review💗 I am still yet to watch this drama but now after reading this, I can’t wait to do so🤧
Twenty-Five Twenty-One is a story of love, friendship, dreams, and growing up. The ending hit me with a strong message that the awful and joyous times we experience in life will be a precious memory in the future and it will complete our life, eventually. I like how the story goes back and forth from the present to the past and vice versa. It makes the storytelling more engaging. Sometimes, this way of storytelling also leaves a remarkable takeaway for me; don’t worry too much, the sadness/mistakes we make today will going to be just okay someday and we’ll learn something from it. The review is beautifully laid out. Also I love that you mentioned about School Corporal Punishment.
As me who is entering in 20s this year, this drama was everything i needed… 2521 taught me so many things…one of them was to cherish my youth….. Besides, the review was beautifully written kyle😌💜
This review did justice to the drama. I am so in love with the drama itself and there comes this article. You have beautifully reviewed it 💖 This drama will always hold a special place in my heart and i will always re-watch it. Thankyou writer-nim for giving us this masterpiece 🥺💘🤌
Very beautifully written and expressed, I totally agree
Such an amazing review I kight have cried again whole reading this🥺❤️
The way this article described the drama😍 I bet those who haven’t watched it will watch after reading this review
This is now one of my favourite dramas 😍❤️ Such a beautiful pack of love , friendship, dreams, and youth 💕
The line at the end – Don’t be sad because it ended, but be happy because it happen, has my ❤. Keep up the good work🤍
the line- “Don’t be sad it ended, be happy because it happened” 🤍🤍🤍🤍
A beautiful review and very well written, the last line of the article holds onto my heart 🌸💙 Will surely watch this drama!
Great review👏🏻👏🏻 this drama is special for everyone like it teaches many things one should not always think about themselves, secondly never get jealous of others success, most importantly which you’ve mentioned already that love never ends if it’s true no matter if people are not together or for some reason they break up but if your intentions are pure for chosing the reason of separation then nothing is wrong in that…people should always respect each others decisions this makes everything in life sorted❣we cried and laughed watching this drama but it showed that happy endings are for fairy tales in real life your career and comfort comes first… you wrote it beautifully thank you for mentioning everything:)
Heartfelt review 👍❤️ added this drama to watch list
Review is just as amazing as the drama! Loved reading it and loved the way you expressed everything
This drama is such a motivational drama, I love to see this drama again and again. Kim Taeri was just amazing in this drama. And all thanks to the writer that people who is going to watch this drama can get a fantastic review bcoz this article contains everything that is needed for a person to know how the drama is. Loved reading this article.